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Day 21: The Final Big Climb (not)

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Claudia and I left Jeff’s in the morning. Claudia, a few minutes earlier than I since she is without exception, an earlier riser, faster packer, and just generally a less sluggish individual. It must be the cucumbers. We were both heading towards Salida, a town that’s fairly well known to cycle tourists of all types since it’s close to the Great Divide trail, the Colorado trail, and the Western Express, which was the route Claudia and I were on.

I had originally intended to break off going north before reaching Salida, but I was unable to find housing where I hoped. With rain in the forecast, I decided to go a few miles out of my way to Salida instead. There, I was in communication with a Warmshowers host, Brandi, so I knew I had housing. The only real obstacle on the way to Salida was Monarch Pass. This was another 10+ mile climb that would take us over the continental divide. It would also be the last major climb for one of us, since past Monarch the route is mostly downhill to Kansas and beyond. Claudia said she nearly cried from joy coming over Monarch Pass since she’ll be going straight into Kansas and downhill from here. I am not so lucky…

The Monarch Pass climb, while long, isn’t incredibly steep. Slow and steady is the name of the game. Which is honestly my least favorite type of climb. I really like steep climbs that are over quickly, which is what I hear the Appalachians may have in store, but that’s still a long way off.

Eventually, I did crest the top and was greeted by two guys, Hap and Doug. They were part of the 101st Army Band and were on a tour through Colorado! They would be staying in Salida after their concert in Buena Vista that night. Hap also works for Amtrak, and if I take the train home, it sounds like I will have a partner to ride with through Iowa and Nebraska! He also let me know that should I take the train home from Boston, I will only have to make one transfer the whole trip, which will be awesome. We agreed to try and meet each other that night for some food and drinks if it worked out.

Then I was off and down the mountain. The best parts of these long ascents are the long descents, and you usually hit 45 mph or more. I try to ride a little slower when I’m recording with my GoPro because I only have one hand on the bars and the other hand is holding my camera.

At the bottom of the decent, I would be receiving my first resupply from back home. This would have nearly 30 bars, homemade trail mix, and several dehydrated food packs. I would be picking it up from Poncha Springs via general delivery from the post office. However, when I arrived, I found that the post office would be closed for the next hour and half. That’s the issue with the small towns I ride through, things actually close, which I’m not used to coming from the Bay Area. On the advice of Paul, my first Warmshowers host, I am particularly careful on Sundays since everything is closed all day and it can be very difficult to refill on water, let alone get food.

While I waited outside the post office, I got to see several other cyclists riding by. Most were doing the Great Divide race, which is the longest dirt race in the world and goes from Jasper, Canada to the Mexico boarder. It’s something I would love to do in the future, and I think it would be hilarious to do it on a suspension tandem bike with a friend. My friend would have to ride in back so if we get chased by any grizzlies in Canada, they’ll be taken out first.

I got my resupply from the post office and continued the last 5 or so miles to Salida. There I met Brandi, Rio (her son), and Walter (the pug). All were very welcoming. When Brandi heard about Claudia, she was also offered a place to stay. In addition to us, a brother/sister combo would also be coming that night named Chris and Susan. They were doing the Great Divide trail.

We talked with Brandi for a couple hours before she had to leave for a week. She left all four of us in the house on our own and told us to stay as many days as needed since she wouldn’t be here anyways. This complete showing of trust is not something I ever really experienced before. However, it kind of makes sense. On a bike, what am I going to do? Take her TV? But it’s still something far beyond what I expected and I would be so grateful to her over the coming days as I would stay three days waiting for the weather to improve.

Later that night, all four of us cyclists went out to a restaurant to watch the hockey game. It was game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals and Claudia is a huge Habs fan. They’re the major underdogs of hockey at the moment, and that makes them easy for everyone to get behind.

We enjoyed dinner there where I experienced fried pickles for the first time. I love trying new things and this time the new thing was actually good! Highly recommend fried pickles. However, restaurant food is expensive and given how much I need to eat each day, we decided to go to McDonalds after as well… My aunt has given me $150 to McDonalds and I need to start using it!

Before we head out, I run into Hap and Doug again! While Claudia celebrated the Habs victory, which sent them to the finals, I got to eat and talk to the guys and their band some more. But before too long, I had to head out to get to McDonalds before they closed for the night.


We made it a few minutes before it closed and had a mini feast before returning home. Really fun day and it was great to meet everyone!


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You know..... pickles are made from cucumbers......;-)

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That.. that’s a great point…

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